A trip to New Orleans (for work of course!)…

Ron was invited to be the head judge a few weeks ago for the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience for their “Big Gateaux” Cake Competition.  And lets just say we had a blast!

I have never visited New Orleans before; can I just say what a wonderful city it is?  The people are hospitable and proud of their heritage.  While Ron was working, doing his judging thing, I was taking in the sights and sounds of this fantastic little city.  The inspirations alone here can decorate a thousand cakes!  The colors and textures all around are a wonderful source for décor; it was great walking around to take pictures of it all.  (I will post these pics in another post…)

But the real reason we were invited down to this festival was for the “Big Gateaux Show”, a cake competition that was completed over a two-day period.  There were two parts to this competition – your showpiece, which was Styrofoam covered in sugar and taste.  You were allowed to bring one ingredient for your cake tasting and one of the rules was the cake had to include chocolate. (There were other rules too, I just don’t remember what they were…sorry!)  The bakery talent was from all parts of North America and what talent!

Pastry Chef Bronwen Weber of Frosted Art Bakery & Studio in Dallas, TX was inspired by the Burlesque dancer Trixie Minx. For her cake tasting she presented a Black & Butter Bourbon Praline Cake.
Pastry Chef Gonzalo Jimenez of the Hyatt New Orleans was inspired by Burlesque dancer Madame Mystere. His Pastry Chef partner for the competition prepared a Vanilla Butter Cake with Dulce de Leche Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Ganache.
Pastry Chef Solandie Exantus of the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans was inspired by the Burlesque Dancer Roxie. For his cake tasting he presented a Pound Cake with Passion Fruit & Bavarian Cream with a Dark Chocolate Ganache.
Pastry Chef Vanessa Fiorini of Toronto Canada was inspired by the Burlesque dancer Bella. For her cake tasting she presented a Flourless Chocolate Cake layered with Raspberry Gelee, Valrhona Dark Chocolate Mousse and Canadian Ice Wine Glitter Glaze.

Of course we can’t forget the judges.  Joining Ron at the judges table: Chris Hanmer owner of the School of Pastry Design in Las Vegas and winner of Top Chef Just Desserts Season 2, Lee Schrager, Vice President of Southern Wine & Spirits and mastermind behind the South Beach Food & Wine Festival and the lovely Denis Mickelesn, Senior Editor of Fine Cooking Magazine.

Ron with the hosts of the evening, on his left, Tarig Hannah of Sucre in New Orleans and to his right Johnny Iuzzini. A special thank you goes out to Tariq, he was the one who coordinated the competition. Well done!
Top (l to r): Group shot of judges and contestants, Ron, Lee Schrager & Trixie, Jennifer Hannah & Ron. Middle: Jamie Peckenpaugh Executive Director of NOWFE & Ron, Ron with players form the New Orleans Saints football team, Ron with a team member from Pastry Chef Vanessa Fiorini. Bottom: Michelle Minyard, Ron & Chris Hanmer and the delicious chocolates from Sucre.

The inspiration for the contestant’s cakes?  Burlesque dancers of course!  We were down in New Orleans after all.  All four dancers who were the inspirations for these cakes and wowed the audience with their fantastic dancing.

These ladies really put on a great show! Left to right starting at the top: Madame Mystere, Bella Blue, Trixie Minx and Roxie le Rouge
Of course Ron had to jump in on the dancing fun, there were feathers after all…

It was a really great event and everyone had a wonderful time.  It was definitely a night to remember and all of the contestants worked so hard on their showpieces.

The grand prize winner??? Was Bronwen Webber! She was awarded $5,000 for first place.  Congrats Bronwen to you and to all of your fellow competitors. 
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